Global economic conditions impact the business of the Group
The Group’s earnings and financial position are, and will continue to be, influenced by various macroeconomic factors – including increases or decreases in gross domestic product, the level of consumer and business confidence, changes in interest rates on consumer and business credit, energy prices, and the cost of commodities or other raw materials – which exist in the various countries in which the Group operates. Such macroeconomic factors vary from time to time and their effect on the Group’s earnings and financial position cannot be specifically and singularly assessed and/or isolated.
Financial conditions in several regions continue to place significant economic pressures on existing and potential customers, including the Group’s dealer networks. As a result, some dealers and customers may delay or cancel plans to purchase the Group’s products and services and may not be able to fulfill their obligations to the Group in a timely fashion. Further, the Group’s suppliers may be impacted by economic pressures, which may adversely affect their ability to fulfill their obligations to the Group. These factors could result in product delays, increased accounts receivable, defaults and inventory challenges. There is particular concern about economic conditions in Europe (and potentially the long-term viability of the euro currency), which is at risk of being impacted by sovereign debt levels (and government taxing and spending actions to address such issues) and other severe pressures on the banking system in certain European Union countries. It is uncertain whether central bank or governmental measures will reduce or eliminate this risk. In addition, other governments may continue to implement measures designed to slow the economic growth rate in those countries (e.g., higher interest rates, reduced bank lending and other anti-inflation measures). If there is significant deterioration in the global economy or the economies of key countries or regions, the demand for the Group’s products and services would likely decrease and the Group’s results of operations, financial position and cash flows could be materially and adversely affected.
In addition, the continuation of adverse market conditions in certain businesses in which the Group participates could cause many companies, including the Group, to carefully evaluate whether certain intangible assets have become impaired. The factors that the Group would evaluate to determine whether an impairment charge is necessary require management judgment and estimates. The estimates are impacted by a number of factors, including, but not limited to, worldwide economic factors and technological changes. Any of these factors, or other unexpected factors, may require the Group to consider whether it needs to record an impairment charge. In the event the Group is required to record an impairment charge with respect to certain intangible assets, it would have an adverse impact on the Group’s financial position and results of operations.
The Group is exposed to political, economic and other risks as a result of operating a global business
The Group manufactures and sells products and offers services in several continents and numerous countries around the world including those experiencing varying degrees of political and economic instability. Given the global nature of the Group’s activities, the Group is exposed to risks affecting global business operations, including:
- changes in laws, regulations and policies that affect, among other things:
- import and export duties and quotas;
- currency restrictions;
- the design, manufacture and sale of the Group’s products, including, for example, engine emissions regulations;
- interest rates and the availability of credit to the Group’s dealers and customers;
- property and contractual rights;
- where and to whom products may be sold such as changing economic sanctions related to Iran, Russia and the crisis in Ukraine; and
- regulations from changing world organization initiatives and agreements;
- changes in the dynamics of the industries and markets in which the Group operates;
- varying and unpredictable needs and desires of customers;
- varying and unexpected actions of the Group’s competitors;
- labor disruptions;
- disruption in the supply of raw materials and components;
- changes in governmental debt relief and subsidy program policies in certain significant markets such as Argentina and Brazil; and
- war, civil unrest and terrorism.
Unfavorable developments in any one of these areas (which vary from country to country) could have a material adverse effect on the Group’s business prospects, results of operations and/or financial position.
Difficulty in obtaining financing or refinancing existing debt could impact the Group’s financial performance
The Group’s future performance will depend on, among other things, its ability to finance debt repayment obligations and planned investments from operating cash flow, available liquidity, the renewal or refinancing of existing bank loans and/or facilities and possible access to capital markets or other sources of financing. A decline in revenues could have a negative impact on the cash-generating capacity of its operating activities. The Group could, therefore, find itself in the position of having to seek additional financing and/or having to refinance existing debt, including in unfavorable market conditions with limited availability of funding and a general increase in funding costs. Any difficulty in obtaining financing could have a material adverse effect on the Group’s business prospects, results of operations and/or financial position.
The Group’s ability to access the capital markets or other forms of financing and related costs are highly dependent on, among other things, the credit ratings of CNH Industrial N.V., other Group subsidiaries, Group asset-backed securities (“ABS”) and other debt instruments. Rating agencies may review and revise their ratings from time to time, and any downgrade or other negative action with respect to the Group’s credit ratings by one or more rating agencies may increase the Group’s cost of capital, potentially limit its access to sources of financing and have a material adverse effect on its business prospects, results of operations and/or financial position.
The Group is subject to exchange rate fluctuations, interest rate changes and other market risks
The Group operates in numerous markets worldwide and is accordingly exposed to market risks stemming from fluctuations in currency and interest rates. The exposure to currency risk is mainly linked to the differences in the geographic distribution between the Group’s manufacturing and commercial activities, resulting in cash flows from exports denominated in currencies different from those associated with production activities and related purchasing.
The Group uses various forms of financing to cover the funding requirements of its Industrial Activities and for financing offered to customers and dealers. Financial Services implements a matching policy to offset the impact of differences in interest rates on the financed portfolio and related liabilities. Nevertheless, any future changes in interest rates can result in increases or decreases in revenues, finance costs and margins.
Consistent with its risk management policies, the Group seeks to manage currency and interest rate risk through the use of financial hedging instruments. Despite such hedges being in place, sudden fluctuations in currency or interest rates could have an adverse effect on the Group’s business prospects, results of operations and/or financial position. In addition, by utilizing these instruments, the Group potentially foregoes the benefits that may result from favorable fluctuations in currency exchange rates. For additional information see Note 33 “Information on financial risks” to the Consolidated Financial Statements at December 31, 2014.
The Group is also subject to the risk of insolvency of dealers and customers, as well as unfavorable economic conditions in markets where financing activities are carried out, which the Group seeks to mitigate through credit policies applied to dealers and customers. In addition, the Group is subject to laws and government actions that may, among other things, prevent the Group from enforcing legal rights and remedies.
The Group faces risks associated with its relationships with its employees
In many countries where the Group operates, Group employees are protected by various laws and/or collective labor agreements that guarantee them, through local and national representatives, the right of consultation on specific matters, including downsizing or closure of production activities and reductions in personnel. Laws and/or collective labor agreements applicable to the Group could impair its flexibility in reshaping and/or strategically repositioning its business activities. Therefore, the Group’s ability to reduce personnel or implement other permanent or temporary redundancy measures is subject to government approvals and/or the agreement of labor unions where such laws and agreements are applicable. Furthermore, the Group is at greater risk of work interruptions or stoppages than non-unionized companies, and any work interruption or stoppage could significantly impact the volume of products the Group has available for sale.
Reduced demand for equipment would reduce the Group’s sales and profitability
The performance of the agricultural equipment market is influenced, in particular, by factors such as:
- the price of agricultural commodities and the relative level of inventories;
- the profitability of agricultural enterprises and farmers’ income;
- the demand for food products; and
- agricultural policies, including aid and subsidies to agricultural enterprises provided by governments and/or supranational organizations as well as alternative fuel mandates.
In addition, unfavorable climatic conditions, especially during the spring, a particularly important period for generating sales orders, could have a negative impact on decisions to buy agricultural equipment and, consequently, on the Group’s revenues.
The performance of the construction equipment market is influenced, in particular, by factors such as:
- public infrastructure spending; and
- new residential and non-residential construction.
The performance of the commercial vehicles market is influenced, in particular, by factors such as:
- changes in global market conditions, including changes in levels of business investment and sales of commodities; and
- public infrastructure spending.
The above factors can significantly influence the demand for agricultural and construction equipment, as well as for commercial vehicles, and consequently, the Group’s financial results.
The Group depends on key suppliers for certain raw materials, parts and components
The Group relies upon key suppliers for certain raw materials, parts and components. The Group cannot guarantee that it will be able to maintain appropriate supply arrangements with these suppliers or otherwise ensure access to raw materials, parts and components. In some cases this access may be affected by factors outside of the Group’s control and the control of its suppliers. Adverse financial conditions and natural disasters, such as the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, have in the past caused, and could in the future cause, some of the Group’s suppliers to face severe financial hardship and disrupt the Group’s access to critical raw materials, parts and components. Any disruption or shortage in the supply of raw materials, parts and components could negatively impact the Group’s costs of production, its ability to fulfill orders and achieve growth in product sales and the profitability of the Group’s business.
Certain Group subsidiaries use a variety of raw materials in their businesses, including steel, aluminum, lead, resin and copper, and precious metals such as platinum, palladium and rhodium. The prices of these raw materials fluctuate, and although the Group seeks to manage this exposure, the Group may not be successful in hedging these risks. The Group seeks to manage this exposure, but it may not be successful in hedging these risks. Substantial increases in the prices for raw materials would increase the Group’s operating costs and could reduce profitability if the increased costs were not offset by changes in product prices.
Competitive activity, or failure by the Group to respond to actions by competitors, could adversely affect results of operation
Substantially all of the Group’s revenues are generated in highly competitive sectors that include the production and distribution of agricultural and construction equipment, commercial vehicles, and related powertrain systems. The Group faces competition from other international manufacturers and distributors of commercial vehicles in Europe, Asia and Latin America and from global, regional and local agricultural and construction equipment manufacturers, distributors and component suppliers in Europe, Asia, North America and Latin America. Certain of the Group’s global competitors have substantial resources and may be able to provide products and services at little or no profit or even at a loss to compete with certain Group product offerings. Aggressive pricing or other strategies pursued by competitors, unanticipated product or manufacturing delays or the Group’s failure to price its products competitively could adversely affect its business, results of operations and financial position. Additionally, there has been a trend towards consolidation in the trucks and construction equipment industries that has resulted in larger and potentially stronger competitors in those markets. The markets in which the Group competes are highly competitive in terms of product quality, innovation, pricing, fuel economy, reliability, safety, customer service and financial services offered.
Competition, particularly on pricing, has increased significantly in the Group’s areas of activity in recent years. Should the Group be unable to adapt effectively to market conditions, this could have an adverse effect on the Group’s business prospects, results of operations and/or financial position.
Costs of ongoing compliance with, or failure to comply with, environmental laws could have an adverse effect on the Group’s results of operations
The Group’s products and activities are subject to numerous local, national and international environmental laws, which are becoming increasingly stringent in many countries in which it operates. Such laws govern, among other things, products – with requirements on emissions of polluting gases, increased fuel efficiency and safety becoming increasingly strict – and industrial plants – with requirements for reduced emissions, treatment of waste and water and prohibitions on soil contamination also becoming increasingly strict. To comply with such laws, the Group invests considerable research and development resources and expects to continue to incur substantial costs in the future.
Failure to comply with such laws could expose the Group to penalties or clean-up costs, civil or criminal liability and sanctions on certain of the Group’s activities, as well as damage to property or natural resources. Liabilities, sanctions, damages and remediation efforts related to any non-compliance with such laws and regulations, including those that may be adopted or imposed in the future, could negatively impact the Group’s ability to conduct its operations and its financial position and results of operations. In addition, there can be no assurances that the Group will not be adversely affected by costs, liabilities or claims with respect to any subsequently acquired operations. For instance, the Group’s engines are subject to extensive regulatory requirements governing exhaust emissions and noise, including standards imposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, state regulatory agencies in the United States and other regulatory agencies around the world. National, state or local governments may set new emissions standards that could impact the Group’s products and operations in ways that are difficult to anticipate with accuracy. Thus, significant changes in standards, or the adoption of new standards, have the potential to negatively impact the Group’s business, results of operations, financial position and competitive position.
The Group’s business, properties, and products are subject to governmental regulation compliance with which may require the Group to incur expenses, or modify its products or operations, and non-compliance with which may result in harm to the Group’s reputation and/or expose the Group to penalties. Governmental regulation may also adversely affect the demand for some of the Group’s products and operating results.
The Group’s business, properties, and products are subject to numerous international, federal and other governmental laws, rules, and regulations relating to restricted substances, including "conflict minerals" disclosure rules. For example, the Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) Directive in the European Union (EU) requires that certain substances, which may be found in certain products the Group has manufactured in the past, be removed from all electronics components, and the Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) Directive in the EU which could require an authorization process for any chemical deemed a Substance of Very High Concern (SVHC), and listed by the European Commission in Annex XIV to REACH, to remain on the market. China and New York City have adopted RoHS restrictions, and many U.S. states are considering similar rules and legislation. Individual EU member states are required to transpose Directives into national legislation. As member states enact new laws and regulations to implement the Directives, the Group continues to review the applicability and impact of both Directives on the sale of its products within the EU. The Group must survey its supply chain and certify to the non-presence or presence of SVHCs to its customers. Compliance with these governmental regulations can be difficult, costly and time consuming, and liabilities or costs relating to such regulations could have a material adverse effect on the Group’s business, financial position and results of operations.
A decrease in government incentives may adversely affect the Group’s results
Government initiatives that are intended to stimulate demand for products sold by the Group, such as changes in tax treatment or purchase incentives for new equipment, can substantially influence the timing and level of the Group’s revenues. The terms, size and duration of such government actions are unpredictable and outside of the Group’s control.
Any adverse change in government policy relating to those initiatives could have a material adverse effect on the Group’s business prospects, operating results and/or financial position. For example, on December 31, 2014, the additional firstyear “50% bonus” depreciation and increased expensing of property under the U.S. Internal Revenue Code section 179 expired. This could have an adverse effect on the Group’s business prospects in the U.S.
The Group’s future performance depends on its ability to innovate and on market acceptance of new or existing products
The success of the Group’s businesses depends on their ability to maintain or increase their market share in existing markets and to expand into new markets through the development of innovative, high-quality products that provide adequate profitability. In particular, the failure to develop and offer innovative products that compare favorably to those of the Group’s principal competitors in terms of price, quality, functionality and features, or delays in bringing strategic new products to market, or the inability to adequately protect the Group’s intellectual property rights, could result in reduced market share, which could have a material adverse effect on the Group’s business prospects, results of operations and/or financial position.
The Group’s existing operations and expansion plans in emerging markets could entail significant risks
The Group’s ability to grow its businesses depends to an increasing degree on its ability to increase market share and operate profitably worldwide and in particular in emerging market countries, such as Brazil, Russia, India, China, Argentina, Turkey, Venezuela and South Africa. In addition, the Group could increase its use of suppliers located in such countries. The Group’s implementation of these strategies will involve a significant investment of capital and other resources and entail various risks. For example, the Group may encounter difficulties in obtaining necessary governmental approvals in a timely manner. In addition, the Group may experience delays and incur significant costs in constructing facilities, establishing supply channels, and commencing manufacturing operations. Further, customers in these markets may not readily accept the Group’s products as opposed to products manufactured and commercialized by its competitors. The emerging market countries may also be subject to a greater degree of economic and political volatility that could adversely affect the Group’s financial position, results of operations and cash flows. The emerging market economies may also be subject to a further slowdown in gross domestic product expansion and/or be impacted by domestic currency volatility, potential hyperinflationary conditions and/or increase of public debt. For example, the Group is subject to the rules and regulations of the Venezuelan government concerning its ability to exchange cash or marketable securities denominated in Venezuelan bolivar into U.S. dollars. Under these regulations, the purchase and sale of foreign currency must be at official rates of exchange and such transactions are subject to volume restrictions. These regulations limit the Group’s ability to access and transfer liquidity out of Venezuela to meet funding requirements in other countries and also subject it to increased risk of devaluation or other foreign exchange losses. As of December 31, 2014, the Group has net monetary assets of $125 million at an exchange rate of 12.0 Venezuelan bolivars to one U.S. dollar.
CNH Industrial is subject to extensive anti-corruption and antitrust laws and regulations
CNH Industrial’s global operations are subject to a number of laws and regulations that govern its operations around the world, including the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), the U.K. Bribery Act, which apply to conduct around the world, as well as a range of national anti-corruption laws that apply to conduct in a particular jurisdiction.
These laws prohibit improper payments in cash or anything of value to improperly influence government officials or other persons to obtain or retain business or gain a business advantage. These laws tend to apply whether or not those practices are legal or culturally acceptable in a particular jurisdiction. Over the past several years there has been a substantial increase in the enforcement of anti-corruption laws both globally and in particular jurisdictions and the Group’s employees have from time to time been subject to investigations and charges claiming violations of anticorruption laws. CNH Industrial is committed to operating in compliance with all applicable laws, in particular anticorruption laws. The Group has implemented a program to promote compliance with these laws and to identify and minimize the risk of any violations, which could result in criminal or civil prosecution of the Group or its employees.
Investigations of alleged violations of these laws tend to require dedication of significant resources in funds and management time and attention and these investigations or any violations, as well as any publicity regarding potential violations, could harm CNH Industrial’s reputation and have a material adverse effect on its business, results of operations and financial condition. For further information see Note 30 “Guarantees granted, commitments and other contingent liabilities” to the Consolidated Financial Statements at December 31, 2014.
Risks associated with the defined benefit pension plans and other post-employment obligations
At December 31, 2014, CNH Industrial’s defined benefit pension plans and other post-employment benefits had an underfunded status of $2,517 million which is included in the Consolidated statement of financial position. The funded status is the balance between the present value of the defined benefit obligation and the fair value of related assets, in case of funded plans (plans managed by a separate fund, “trust”). Consequently, the funded status is subject to many factors as discussed in the Consolidated Financial Statements at December 31, 2014, section Significant Accounting Policies paragraph Use of Estimates, as well as Note 25 “Provisions for employee benefits”.
To the extent that the Group’s obligations under a plan are unfunded or underfunded, the Group will have to use cash flows from operations and other sources to pay its obligations as they become due. In addition, since the assets that currently fund these obligations are primarily invested in debt instruments and equity securities, the value of these assets is subject to changes due to market fluctuations. In recent years, these fluctuations have been significant and adverse and there is no assurance that they will not be significant and adverse in the future.
Dealer equipment sourcing and inventory management decisions could adversely affect the Group’s sales
The Group’s dealers carry inventories of finished products as part of ongoing operations and adjust those inventories based on their assessment of future sales opportunities. Dealers who carry other products that compete with the Group’s products may focus their inventory purchases and sales efforts on goods provided by other suppliers due to industry demand or profitability. Such inventory adjustments and sourcing decisions can adversely impact the Group’s sales, financial position and results of operations.
Adverse economic conditions could place a financial strain on the Group’s dealers and adversely affect the Group’s operating result
Global economic conditions continue to place financial stress on many of the Group’s dealers. Dealer financial difficulties may impact their equipment sourcing and inventory management decisions, as well as their ability to provide services to their customers purchasing the Group’s equipment. Accordingly, additional financial strains on members of the Group’s dealer network resulting from current or future economic conditions could adversely impact the Group’s sales, financial position and results of operations.
The Group may not be able to realize anticipated benefits from any acquisitions and, further, challenges associated with strategic alliances may have an adverse impact on the Group’s results of operations
The Group has engaged in the past, and may engage in the future, in mergers and acquisitions or enter into, expand or exit from strategic alliances and joint ventures which could involve risks that could prevent the Group from realizing the expected benefits of the transactions or the achievement of strategic objectives or could divert management’s time and attention. Such risks include:
- technological and product synergies, economies of scale and cost reductions not occurring as expected;
- unexpected liabilities;
- incompatibility in integrating processes, operations or systems;
- unexpected changes in laws or regulations;
- inability to retain key employees;
- inability to source certain products;
- increased financing costs and inability to fund such costs;
- significant costs associated with terminating or modifying alliances; and
- problems in retaining customers and integrating operations, services, personnel and customer bases.
If problems or issues were to arise among the parties to one or more strategic alliances for managerial, financial, or other reasons, or if such strategic alliances or other relationships were terminated, the Group’s product lines, businesses, financial position, and results of operations could be adversely affected.
Risks associated with the termination of CNH Global’s strategic alliance with Kobelco Construction Machinery Co., Ltd.
Effective December 31, 2012, CNH Global and Kobelco Construction Machinery Co., Ltd. (“KCM”) terminated by mutual consent their global alliance (consisting of industrial arrangements and a number of jointly-owned companies) in the construction equipment business. The agreements regulating the dissolution of the alliance provide that, starting from January 1, 2013 until December 31, 2017, the Group will be entitled to purchase components and parts from KCM on a non-exclusive basis in order to continue to manufacture excavators based upon KCM’s technology in Group’s plants. Moreover, starting from December 31, 2012, the territorial sales and marketing restrictions limiting the right of KCM to distribute its excavators in certain significant markets (such as the Americas and Europe) expired and similar restrictions which applied to the Group’s construction equipment activities expired in APAC on July 31, 2013. While the Group expects a smooth transition with respect to implemented changes, commercial issues (such as, by way of example, the weakening of the distributorship network and the subsequent loss of market share) or industrial issues (such as, by way of example, difficulties in maintaining quality standards or inability to source certain components currently provided by KCM) in connection with the termination of the alliance might arise, which could have a material adverse effect upon the Group’s construction equipment product lines, construction equipment distribution network, financial position and results of operations.
The Group’s business operations may be impacted by various types of claims, lawsuits and other contingent obligations
The companies within the Group are involved in various product liability, warranty, product performance, asbestos, personal injury, environmental claims and lawsuits and other legal proceedings that arise in the ordinary course of their businesses. The industries in which the Group operates are also periodically reviewed or investigated by regulators, which could lead to enforcement actions, fines and penalties or the assertion of private litigation claims. The ultimate outcome of these legal matters pending against the Group is uncertain, and although such legal matters are not expected individually to have a material adverse effect on the Group’s financial position or profitability, such legal matters could, in the aggregate, in the event of unfavorable resolutions thereof, have a material adverse effect on the Group’s consolidated financial position, cash flows and results of operations. Furthermore, the Group could in the future be subject to judgments or enter into settlements of lawsuits and claims that could have a material adverse effect on its results of operations in any particular period. In addition, while the Group maintains insurance coverage with respect to certain claims, it may not be able to obtain such insurance on acceptable terms in the future, if at all, and any such insurance may not provide adequate coverage against any such claims. The Group establishes reserves based on its assessment of contingencies, including contingencies related to legal claims asserted against the Group.
Subsequent developments in legal proceedings may affect the Group’s assessment and estimates of the loss contingency recorded as a reserve and require the Group to make payments in excess of its reserves, which could have a material adverse effect on the Group’s results of operations and/or financial position. For further information see Note 30 “Guarantees granted, commitments and other contingent liabilities” to the Consolidated Financial Statements at December 31, 2014.
The agricultural equipment industry is highly seasonal, which causes the Group’s results of operations and levels of working capital to fluctuate significantly
Farmers traditionally purchase agricultural equipment in the spring and fall, the main planting and harvesting seasons.
The Group’s agricultural equipment business net sales and results of operations have historically been highest in the second quarter, reflecting the spring selling season in the Northern hemisphere, and lowest in the third quarter, when many of the Group’s production facilities experience summer shut-down periods, especially in Europe. The Group’s agricultural equipment production levels are based upon estimated retail demand. These estimates take into account the timing of dealer shipments, which occur in advance of retail demand, dealer inventory levels, the need to retool manufacturing facilities to produce new or different models and the efficient use of manpower and facilities. However, because the Group spreads its production and wholesale shipments throughout the year, wholesale sales of agricultural equipment products in any given period may not necessarily reflect the timing of dealer orders and retail demand in that period.
Estimated retail demand may exceed or be exceeded by actual production capacity in any given calendar quarter because the Group spreads production throughout the year. If retail demand is expected to exceed production capacity for a quarter, then the Group may schedule higher production in anticipation of the expected retail demand. Often, the Group anticipates that spring-selling season demand may exceed production capacity in that period and schedules higher production, and anticipates higher inventories and wholesale shipments to dealers in the first quarter of the year. As a result, the Group’s working capital and dealer inventories are generally at their highest levels during the February to May period and decline towards the end of the year, as both the Group’s and its dealers’ inventories are typically reduced.
To the extent the Group’s production levels (and timing) do not correspond to retail demand, it may have too much or too little inventory, which could have an adverse effect on the Group’s financial position and results of operations.
The Group has significant outstanding indebtedness, which may limit its ability to obtain additional funding and may limit its financial and operating flexibility
As of December 31, 2014, the Group had an aggregate of $29,701 million (including $22,727 million relating to Financial Services) of consolidated gross indebtedness, and its equity was $7,577 million, including non-controlling interests. The extent of the Group’s indebtedness could have important consequences for its operations and financial results, including:
- the Group may not be able to secure additional funds for working capital, capital expenditures, debt service requirements or general corporate purposes;
- the Group may need to use a portion of its projected future cash flow from operations to pay principal and interest on its indebtedness, which may reduce the amount of funds available to the Group for other purposes;
- the Group may be more financially leveraged than some of its competitors, which could put it at a competitive disadvantage;
- the Group may not be able to introduce new products or pursue business opportunities;
- the Group may not be able to adjust rapidly to changing market conditions, which may make it more vulnerable to a downturn in general economic conditions; and
- the Group may not be able to access the capital markets on favorable terms, which may adversely affect its ability to provide competitive retail and wholesale financing programs.
These risks are exacerbated by the ongoing volatility in the financial markets resulting from perceived strains on the finances and creditworthiness of several governments and financial institutions, particularly in the Eurozone.
Among the anticipated benefits of the Merger is the expected reduction in funding costs over time due to improved debt capital markets positioning of CNH Industrial. However, certain of the circumstances and risks described above, including but not limited to the timing of maturity and anticipated refinancing of existing indebtedness, may delay or reduce the expected cost savings from the future funding structures and the expected cost savings may not be achieved.
Restrictive covenants in the Group’s debt agreements could limit its financial and operating flexibility
The indentures governing the majority of the Group’s outstanding public indebtedness, and other credit agreements to which Group’s subsidiaries are a party, contain typical covenants that restrict the Group’s ability to, among other things:
- incur additional indebtedness;
- make certain investments;
- enter into certain types of transactions with affiliates;
- sell certain assets or merge with or into other companies;
- use assets as security in other transactions; and
- enter into sale and leaseback transactions.
Although CNH Industrial does not believe any of these covenants materially restrict its operations, a breach of one or more of the covenants could result in adverse consequences that could negatively impact the Group’s businesses, results of operations and financial position. These consequences may include the acceleration of amounts outstanding under certain of the Group’s credit facilities, triggering an obligation to redeem certain debt securities, termination of existing unused commitments by the Group’s lenders, refusal by the Group’s lenders to extend further credit under one or more of the facilities or to enter into new facilities or the lowering or modification of CNH Industrial’s credit ratings or those of one or more of its subsidiaries. For further information see Note 27 “Debt” to the Consolidated Financial Statements at December 31, 2014.
Risks related to increased information technology security threats
The Group relies upon information technology systems and networks in connection with a variety of business activities, and the Group collects and stores sensitive data. Increased information technology security threats and more sophisticated computer crime, including advanced persistent threats, pose a risk to the security of its systems and networks and the confidentiality, availability and integrity of its data.
In order to manage such risks, the Group implemented its information security system, an integrated set of policies, processes, methodologies, teams and technologies aimed at ensuring appropriate protection of the Group’s data. The information security system must be constantly aligned with evolving cyber threats scenarios in order for it to be effective.
Recent security initiatives included in the Group’s information security roadmap concern product development data loss prevention, data classification (both structured and unstructured data) and laptop encryption. Actions are also in progress to increase the Group’s capability to prevent, detect, and react to malicious data leakage attempts.
Despite such efforts, a failure or breach in security could expose the Group and its customers, dealers and suppliers to risks of misuse of information or systems, the compromising of confidential information, manipulation and destruction of data, defective products, production downtimes and operations disruptions, which in turn could adversely affect its reputation, competitive position, businesses and results of operations. In addition, such breaches in security could result in litigation, regulatory action and potential liability, as well as higher operational and other costs of implementing further data protection measures.
The loss of members of senior management could have an adverse effect on the business of the Group
The Group’s success is largely dependent on the ability of its senior executives and other members of management to effectively manage its organization and individual areas of its business. The loss of any senior executive, manager or other key employee without an adequate replacement or the inability to attract and retain new, qualified personnel could therefore have an adverse effect on the Group’s business prospects, results of operations and/or financial position.
The Group’s business may be affected by unfavorable weather conditions, climate change or natural disasters
Poor, severe or unusual weather conditions caused by climate change or other factors, particularly during the planting and early growing season, can significantly affect the purchasing decisions of the Group’s agricultural equipment customers. The timing and quantity of rainfall are two of the most important factors in agricultural production.
Insufficient levels of rain prevent farmers from planting crops or may cause growing crops to die, resulting in lower yields. Excessive rain or flooding can also prevent planting or harvesting from occurring at optimal times and may cause crop loss through increased disease or mold growth. Temperature affects the rate of growth, crop maturity, crop quality and yield. Temperatures outside normal ranges can cause crop failure or decreased yields, and may also affect disease incidence. Natural disasters such as floods, hurricanes, storms and droughts can have a negative impact on agricultural production. The resulting negative impact on farm income can strongly affect demand for the Group’s agricultural equipment in any given period.
In addition, natural disasters, pandemic illness, equipment failures, power outages or other unexpected events could result in physical damage to and complete or partial closure of one or more of the Group’s manufacturing facilities or distribution centers, temporary or long-term disruption in the supply of component products from some local and international suppliers, disruption in the transport of the Group’s products to dealers and customers and delay in delivery of products to distribution centers. In the event such events occur, the Group’s financial results might be negatively impacted. Existing insurance arrangements may not provide protection for all of the costs that may arise from such events.
Changes in demand for food and alternate energy sources could impact the Group’s revenues
Changing worldwide demand for farm outputs to meet the world’s growing food and alternative energy demands, driven in part by government policies and a growing world population, are likely to result in fluctuating agricultural commodity prices, which directly affect sales of agricultural equipment. While higher commodity prices will benefit the Group’s crop producing agricultural equipment customers, higher commodity prices also result in greater feed costs for livestock and poultry producers, which in turn may result in lower levels of equipment purchased by these customers. Moreover, changing alternative energy demands may cause farmers to change the types or quantities of the crops they grow, with corresponding changes in equipment demands. Finally, changes in governmental policies regulating bio-fuel utilization could affect demand for the Group’s equipment and result in higher research and development costs related to equipment fuel standards.
International trade policies may impact demand for the Group’s products and its competitive position
Government policies on international trade and investment such as sanctions, import quotas, capital controls or tariffs, whether adopted by individual governments or addressed by regional trade blocs, may affect the demand for the Group’s products and services, impact the competitive position of its products or prevent the Group from being able to sell products in certain countries. The implementation of more restrictive trade policies, such as more detailed inspections, higher tariffs or new barriers to entry, in countries where the Group sells large quantities of products and services could negatively impact its business, results of operations and financial condition. For example, a government’s adoption of trade sanctions or “buy national” policies or retaliation by another government against such policies could have a negative impact on the Group’s results of operations.
The Group is subject to negative conditions in the financial markets and the cyclicality of the capital goods sector
Producers in the capital goods sector are subject to:
- the condition of financial markets, in particular, the ability to access the ABS market and prevailing interest rates in that market. In North America, in particular, the Group makes considerable use of ABS transactions to fund financing offered to dealers and customers. Adverse conditions in the financial markets, and the ABS market in particular, could have a significant impact on the Group’s business prospects, results of operations and/or financial position;
- cyclicality, which can cause sudden (and sometimes material) declines in demand, with negative effects on inventory levels and product pricing, both new and used. In general, demand in the capital goods sector is highly correlated to the economic cycle and can be subject to even greater levels of volatility.